Matt Johnson, the face behind The The, has always walked a tightrope between exceptional pop craftsmanship and brooding lyrics. While this creative tension has sometimes led his various bands into heavy-handed self-parody, it has also resulted in a lot of fine music over a nearly 20 year history. Soul Mining was one of the most fully realized albums to come out of the 1980s British synth pop movement and remains Johnson's most accessible work. While its follow up, Infected, found Johnson searching through too many dark disco alleys, Mind Bomb was an engaging guitar affair that featured an all-star alternative rock backing band. A tribute album to country great Hank Williams was as interesting as it was misguided, but Johnson has greeted the new century by dropping his vocal excesses and releasing Naked Self, a stripped down album that captures some of the interweaving guitar beauty found on Lou Reed's The Blue Mask.